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Check the Used Car's Paperwork

By: Scott McBride - Updated: 19 Aug 2010 | comments*Discuss
Car Used Car Paperwork Documents Service

Okay, so it is not the most appealing aspect of buying a used car, but it is crucial to ensure the paperwork is in order. If a dealer or private seller is not willing to hand over all the appropriate documents for close scrutiny, a buyer should walk away there and then.

No matter how fabulous the car looks, how well it handled on the test drive, or how trustworthy the seller seems to be, before parting with any hard-earned cash a buyer should examine:

  • The MOT, if the car is more than three years old.
  • The logbook (V5C document).
  • The car's service history.
  • The registration number and vehicle identification number.
  • If tax is included, a valid tax disc.

The seller should have all the appropriate documents to hand and the buyer needs to see the original documents, so do not accept photocopies under any circumstances. If the used car is more than three years old, it will need an MOT certificate to prove it can start, steer and stop. Ensure the MOT has raised lettering where it has been stamped by the test station, and check that the mileage recorded on the MOT is in line with that shown on the car's clock.

The logbook proves ownership of the car, as it contains the name and address of the registered keeper. These details should match those of the seller otherwise he is not legally entitled to sell it. Keepers are asked to ensure their personal details are correct on the V5C document, so be very sceptical if a seller offers excuses and walk away unless the details in the logbook are correct.

The number of previous owners will be highlighted in the logbook, as will contact details of the most recent previous owner. Try to contact the most recent previous owner and ask them to verify the car's history. Other useful information in the logbook includes the make, model, engine size and date of first registration, all of which should, of course, tally with the vehicle being sold. Even exhaust emissions will be listed in the logbook, and this can be used to calculate the cost of annual road tax.

Full Service History

It is always nice if a used car has a full service history, with a service book crammed with dealer stamps. This will tend to indicate that the car has been well maintained, although it is a good idea to contact the garages in question to ensure they did carry out the work. If the used car is a bit older, it may not have a full service history. This does not necessarily mean it is a bad buy, but if a seller claims recent work has been carried out on the car, a buyer should ask for receipts as proof and telephone the garage to check.

Do not forget to check that the engine and chassis numbers in the logbook match those on the car itself. Everything must be present and correct and if in the slightest doubt a buyer should walk away from the deal.

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